Basil Pesto is simple enough to make but this recipe for the BEST Basil Pesto has a few tricks that make it absolutely outstanding. Quick, easy and freezer friendly, blend up a big batch to take you through the winter months.

Basil Pesto in a glass jar with a wooden spoonful of basil pesto on a white striped napkin and basil leaves in the background


Basil Pesto

I’m a terrible vegetable gardener and I’m going to blame my husband for the poorly selected plot of land I was allowed to try my hand at gardening with.

I knew before I plunged the shovel into the dirt to break ground for my vegetable garden that this was going to be a lost cause but I forged ahead….for the past two summers. I got a couple cucumbers, a dead zucchini plant, a two inch carrot, TONS of kale (I hate kale) and a boatload of green tomatoes.

Since I do very well in the herb gardening area, I always have a TON of fresh basil. The thing about basil is you need to stay on top of it or it will go to seed. Pinching off the ends to ensure it doesn’t flower and then die off is something I do several times a week. And also…..I make tons of Basil Pesto from scratch.

It’s a surefire way to use up what otherwise would just go to waste. And making big batches of it to freeze helps me have a little taste of summer in the middle of winter.

Basil Pesto in a small jar with a wooden spoon on the table.

What Is Pesto

Basil Pesto, also called Pesto Genovese, is a flavorful sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. There are several variations of basil pesto, sometimes I like to add crushed red pepper to make it a little spicy.

There are plenty of store bought pesto sauces on the market but once you make it at home, nothing else will ever compare.

Overhead shot of the Very Best Basil Pesto in a glass jar with a teak spoon on a white napkin

How To Make Fresh Pesto

Fresh Basil Pesto from scratch is so easy to make.

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet until lightly golden.
  2. Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese in a food processor or blender and process until roughly chopped and a loose paste begins to form.
  3. Drizzle in the olive oil while running the processor is running until the desired consistency.
  4. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until read to use.

How To Freeze

Making big batches of Homemade Basil Pesto and freezing it is one of my favorite things to do with it. It’s a great way to meal prep your way through the winter months.

To freeze your pesto, fill up the wells of ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Freeze until firm, then pop the frozen sauce out of the tray. Place the Basil Pesto Sauce cubes into a freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.

To thaw, simply place in a saucepan over low heat and thaw, stirring occasionally or heat in the microwave until thawed.

Pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce in a white bowl with a jar of basil pesto in the background

Pro Tips for the Best Pesto

  • To maximize the flavor of your pesto, toast the pine nuts for a few minutes (be sure not to burn them) until golden. This step makes them a bit more buttery than raw pine nuts.
  • Lemon….I know it’s not traditional but I like the bright, fresh flavor lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice give the pesto….and it helps keep the green color vibrant by preventing oxidation.
  • Process in batches….I do half the ingredients in the food processor and process until very finely chopped….almost paste like, THEN I add the remaining ingredients to the processor and pulse so there are larger pieces of ingredients thought out the sauce. Bigger pieces means BIGGER flavor!

Serving Suggestions

I love to use the Basil Pesto sauce in soooo many recipes like this super easy Caprese Tortellini Salad and this AHHHMAZING Grilled Chicken recipe. It’s so totally easy and extra cheesy….a big hit with the kids!

It’s also fantastic as a sandwich spread like in this Chicken Cutlet Sandwich or these super simple Meatball Sliders….both great recipes for game day!

Spaghetti with basil pesto sauce on a white plate with a rainbow napkin

More Easy Pesto Recipes

Want to see what else we have NOT growing in our garden…..check us out on Instagram!

Basil Pesto in a glass jar with a wooden spoonful of basil pesto on a white striped napkin and basil leaves in the background

Get the Recipe: The Best Basil Pesto Recipe

Made with garden fresh basil, this Basil Pesto Recipe is simple to make in just a few minutes with very minimal prep work.
5 from 79 votes

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces pine nuts
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Equipment

  • 1 food processor

Instructions 

  • Add the pine nuts to a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, add 1/2 the pine nuts, 3 cups basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup cheese and lemon zest. Process the ingredients for approximately 30 seconds or until the ingredients are finely chopped. 
  • While the food processor is still running on low speed, slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil and continue processing until a smooth paste begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the remaining pine nuts, basil, garlic and cheese to the bowl. Pulse the ingredients until finely chopped.
  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto sauce to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Store the basil pesto sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Video

YouTube video

Notes

To keep the pesto sauce from oxidizing, top it with a thin layer of olive oil.
Calories: 115kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 134mg, Potassium: 90mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 0g, Vitamin A: 485IU, Vitamin C: 2.4mg, Calcium: 116mg, Iron: 0.8mg